I am still combing through the Talsi churchbooks for my Ozols-Ozolins ancestors. The books are quite voluminous, and different books overlap time periods, so work is slow. In addition to Ozols, Ozolins and Ozollaps, I have also found Ozolkalns and Ozolnieks (Oak hills and “people from the oaks”) surnames. Ozols again is by far the most popular, and it seems that the different families were close… there are several of them who would have children and name them after each other or one another’s other children… it makes for a lot of confusion, and a lot of “Janis Ozols”!
So, why would so many people want to be known as “Ozol…s”, or name their farms “Ozol…s”?
“Ozols” is “oak tree” in Latvian. Oak trees are an important symbol in Latvia, a deep-rooted tradition. Keeping with ancient Latvian’s pagan folkloric roots, the mighty oak was a male symbol and was considered sacred. Medicines using infusions of oak bark were common. Farmers tilled their fields around large old oaks, leaving them to grow, out of reverence. Even today, Latvia’s coat of arms is traditionally wreathed in oak branches.
Kaives ozols is the largest (thickest) oak tree in the Baltics. It stands as a monument in Tukums novads, near the old Kaives manor between Tukums and Talsi. The trunk of this oak is believed to have been a pagan ritual site, and today is considered good luck to visit. It is believed to be around 800 or 1,000 years old. Nine people with outstretched arms can wrap around the circumference. Unfortunately, the top of the tree was struck by lightning in the 1920′s, and only a few large branches remain. In it’s days of glory, the top of this tree would have been even larger!